Hood to issue subpoenas to Google over illegal, counterfeit goods sales

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 20, 2013

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) -- Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, at a meeting of state attorneys general this week, said he plans to issue subpoenas to Internet search giant Google for possible violations of state consumer protection laws.

Hood made the announcement at the National Association of Attorneys General's annual summer meeting, held in Boston earlier this week.

Thirty-six state and territorial attorneys general met to discuss a variety of legal issues, including U.S. Supreme Court cases and recent decisions, online intellectual property crimes, tobacco policy and enforcement, and veterans' issues.

Hood led the session on intellectual property crimes.

He, along with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Hawaii Attorney General David Louie, has been calling for Google to stop assisting in the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription and ignoring reports of rogue pirate websites selling stolen music, movies, software and video games.

Hood, who is heading up the group of attorneys general who take issue with Google's search algorithm, again asked the company to address their concerns earlier this month.

The attorney general, who said Google has failed to issue a "substantive response" to date, even sent a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page, inviting him to the NAAG meeting.

"We in good faith invited Larry Page, chief executive officer of Google, to have an open, honest and transparent conversation about these important issues that are putting consumers at risk and facilitating wrongdoing, all while profiting handsomely from this dangerous behavior," Hood told his fellow attorneys general at this week's meeting.

"Google's lack of response leaves us no choice except to issue subpoenas to Google for possible violations of state consumer protection acts and other state and federal civil and criminal laws."

Hood contends the company is "aiding and abetting criminal activity" and putting consumers at risk.

"This is of grave concern to the chief law enforcement officers of this nation," he said, adding that he would subpoena Google's records and emails, and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

He also called on all "conscientious investors" in Google and Google's legitimate advertiser to push the company to stop encouraging innocent users via its auto-complete feature to buy prescription drugs without a prescription and to download pirated music, movies and software, and to delist, or at least demote, from its search results of rogue, serial pirating sites of which Google has been given "thousands" of notices.

Hood said he also would provide the U.S. Department of Justice with evidence of drug purchases his investigators made using Google auto-complete from the company's advertisers after the DOJ entered an agreement to not prosecute Google for the same conduct.

Hood said he believes Google breached this agreement.

Google has said it takes the safety of its users "very seriously," and that it has explained to Hood how it enforces policies to combat rogue online pharmacies and counterfeit drugs.

"In the last two years, we've removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies. We continue to work on this issue with industry partners and groups like the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies," spokesman Aaron Stein said earlier this month.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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